NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, introduced by Russia to the Worldwide House Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft very last April, returned Wednesday to a earth torn by war in Ukraine and escalating superpower pressure when he closed out a 355-working day keep in orbit, the longest solitary flight by a U.S. astronaut.

Irrespective of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and a sharp split in East-West house relations — such as threatening rhetoric and even a YouTube video clip, later on claimed to be a “joke,” suggesting Vande Hei could be remaining behind aboard the station — the NASA astronaut and two cosmonaut crewmates returned to Earth on Wednesday particularly as prepared.

Outgoing Expedition 66 commander Anton Shkaplerov turned the lab more than to NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn on Tuesday in a standard transform-of-command ceremony marked by hugs and handshakes, with no hint of the discord threatening U.S.-Russian relations on Earth.

Outgoing space station commander Anton Shkaplerov, left, hands a symbolic key to the space station to NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn Tuesday in a traditional change-of-command ceremony. Shkaplerov, cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov (to immediate left of key in background) and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei (to right of key) plan to return to Earth Wednesday. / Credit: NASA TV

Outgoing room station commander Anton Shkaplerov, left, hands a symbolic key to the room station to NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn Tuesday in a standard alter-of-command ceremony. Shkaplerov, cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov (to immediate left of essential in qualifications) and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei (to ideal of key) program to return to Earth Wednesday. / Credit rating: NASA Television set

“I’m extremely proud I was the commander of this great crew,” Shkaplerov explained right before handing a symbolic “key to the place station” in excess of to Marshburn. “People today have challenges on Earth, on orbit we are 1 crew. I believe ISS is (a) symbol of the friendship and cooperation and (the) symbol of long run of exploration of house.”

Reported Marshburn: “It really is an honor and a privilege to settle for command of the Intercontinental Place Station and continuing that global partnership and that legacy in spaceflight. Want to thank you, you have been a great commander, seriously can’t thank you plenty of.”

Soon after bidding their 7 station crewmates farewell late Tuesday, Shkaplerov, Vande Hei and flight engineer Pyotr Dubrov strapped into their Soyuz MS-19/65S ferry ship and undocked from the Russian Rassvet module at 3:21 a.m. EDT Wednesday.

Right after a pause to give Dubrov time to have out a image survey of the station’s Russian modules, Soyuz commander Shkaplerov monitored an automated de-orbit rocket firing and a fiery plunge back to Earth, landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan in close proximity to the city of Dzhezkazgan at 7:28 a.m. Wednesday (5:28 p.m. local time).

Soyuz MS-19/65S: Landing! At 7:28am EDT (1128 UTC) Russian restoration crews are now going in to assistance the crew out of the cramped capsule as they start readjusting to the unfamiliar tug of gravity

— William Harwood (@cbs_spacenews) March 30, 2022

Vande Hei and initially-time flier Dubrov logged 355 times 7 hrs and 45 minutes off world, masking 5,680 orbits spanning 150.1 million miles. Together with an earlier room station remain in 2017-18, Vande Hei’s full time in space throughout two missions now stands at 523 days, relocating him up to third on the checklist of most-professional U.S. astronauts.

Soyuz MS-19/65S: For Mark Vande Hei and Pyotr Dubrov, released final April 9 aboard a distinctive Soyuz, landing shut out a 355-day 7-hour 45-moment mission when Shkaplerov, launched Oct. 5, logged 176 days 2 hours and 33 minutes aloft

— William Harwood (@cbs_spacenews) March 30, 2022

Asked how he kept a good frame of mind in the course of this sort of a very long flight absent from close friends and family, Vande Hei reported he tried using “to pay back notice to just the day that I am on and not assume about how quite a few times are remaining.”

“And I’ve been extremely, really fortuitous to have superb crewmates,” he informed CBS News in a the latest house-to-ground job interview. “Everybody’s just finding together fantastically, and it really is been a pleasure.”

He also designed a issue of meditating for 20 minutes every day in the multi-window cupola compartment, getting in stunning sights of Earth amid a sea of stars.

Mark Vande Hei enjoys a moment in the multi-window cupola compartment where he likes to mediate each day before going to work. The Soyuz MS-19/65S spacecraft visible out the center window will carry Vande Hei, commander Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov back to Earth early Wednesday. / Credit: NASA

Mark Vande Hei enjoys a moment in the multi-window cupola compartment exactly where he likes to mediate every day prior to going to perform. The Soyuz MS-19/65S spacecraft visible out the heart window will carry Vande Hei, commander Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov back to Earth early Wednesday. / Credit: NASA

“Each and every early morning, prior to everybody else is awake, with all the lights off, I can sit and glance for 20 minutes at the stars,” he reported. And I sense pretty, quite fortuitous to have those experiences. … I desire I could locate a fantastic way to explain it to men and women. It’s awe-inspiring every single time.”

NASA flight surgeons and help personnel flew to Kazakhstan aboard a NASA jet last Friday and were on hand at the Soyuz landing internet site to welcome Vande Hei dwelling and to carry out original healthcare checks as he began readjusting to gravity soon after approximately a comprehensive calendar year in weightlessness.

Vande Hei and his help crew will fly back to the Johnson Space Heart in Houston shortly immediately after landing although Shkaplerov and Dubrov board a Russian plane for a flight to the cosmonaut teaching centre in Star City in close proximity to Moscow.

Going through months of bodily rehabilitation to regain his “land legs,” Vande Hei instructed a NASA interviewer past 7 days he was specially seeking forward to “generating a cup of coffee for my spouse and myself and then sitting in mattress and speaking to just about every other whilst we’re either looking through or catching up on the information.”

“Just owning comforting Saturday mornings is a superb point,” he stated. “And then right after that, I would almost certainly say guacamole and chips.”

Dubrov and Vande Hei have been released from the Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a distinctive Soyuz on April 9, 2021, becoming a member of spacecraft commander Oleg Novitskiy. When they took off, Vande Hei and Dubrov did not know how prolonged their keep in place could possibly previous for the reason that of uncertainty about the Russian start sequence.

“I failed to know with certainty that the flight would be this extended,” he told CBS Information. “But I undoubtedly understood that it was a possibility, and I designed sure my household was knowledgeable of that. And they all agreed that I must continue to say certainly. So no, I did not have any second views. I felt like it was an chance to fill a require that we had, and I was pretty delighted to be capable to fill it.”

Last Oct, Russia released a Soyuz carrying Shkaplerov, a Russian actress and her director to shoot scenes for a film aboard the area station. The actress and director took the seats that normally would have been out there to have Dubrov and Vande Hei back to Earth just after a 6-month keep in room.

Novitskiy ferried both of them home very last Oct, leaving Shkaplerov guiding to bring Dubrov and Vande Hei back to Earth this 7 days just after just about a complete calendar year in space. Mission duration for Shkaplerov will stand at 176 times.

The International Space Station as seen from below by astronauts aboard a departing Crew Dragon spacecraft. / Credit: NASA

The Global Space Station as seen from beneath by astronauts aboard a departing Crew Dragon spacecraft. / Credit: NASA

Several Russian cosmonauts have logged flights long lasting extra than a 12 months — the environment report is 437 times 17 several hours — but Vande Hei’s 355-working day mark sets a new solitary-flight report for U.S. astronauts, eclipsing Scott Kelly’s 340-day mark and Christina Koch’s 328-working day keep aboard the station, the world file for a female.

“I feel it can be excellent,” Kelly stated in a current phone interview with CBS News. “What’s the declaring, records are manufactured to be damaged? And that usually means we are undertaking issues improved than we did it right before. So yeah, congratulations to him.”

As for his perspective, Vande Hei mentioned “I never imagine it’s a record that I would even attribute to me, it is really a history for our place plan.”

“I have a remarkable amount of regard for Scott and Christina, both equally,” he reported in a NASA job interview. “And I know they would both equally be incredibly satisfied, as the explorers that they are, to see that we’re furthering exploration, we’re receiving persons into space for for a longer time and lengthier periods of time.”

“I expect this document to be damaged, and that will be a more accomplishment for our space system,” he extra.

But that report will not be broken by Vande Hei. He explained to his spouse right before start the present-day mission would be his very last.

“This will be the conclude of a section of my lifetime,” he stated. “I promised my wife I will not be traveling to area yet again. So that will be bittersweet. I’m pretty, really grateful to have had this astounding opportunity to appear up to the room station, to be up in this article with such superb persons who I will look at mates for the relaxation of my lifetime, to provide my country and all of humanity.”

“So there’ll be gratitude for that, enthusiasm for the upcoming and a tiny little bit of unhappiness, way too, due to the fact I will be shutting the door on that, I will never be able to come back again,” he additional. “And this is a very, pretty exclusive spot.”

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